How leading American newspapers saw Narendra Modi’s ‘whirlwind tour’

  • Aditya Iyer, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 28, 2015 16:11 IST
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) gives a "namaste", a gesture of greeting, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg applauds on stage after a town hall at Facebook's headquarters. (REUTERS Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to the US was splashed all over the front pages of Indian dailies, but it received little coverage in leading American newspapers -- most of them focusing on Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley and the potential of India as a digital market.

Modi’s speeches – the focus of thousands of conversation threads on Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites in India – found only passing mentions in the US dailies. The case was similar with other engagements of PM Modi – the G4 Summit, his address to the Indian diaspora, and his attempts to get India a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

The New York Times’ front page on Monday featured a story about how India represents the next unknown frontier for the technology giants of Silicon Valley to conquer, juxtaposing Modi’s “charm offensive” with more technical reports on the state of the digital market in the subcontinent. The report also discussed India’s potential to attract revenue in digital ads.

The NYT also reported on Modi’s talks with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, speaking about the PM’s views on how social media and the vision of the ‘Digital India’ scheme. The report also focused on Zuckerberg’s controversial ‘’, which was rebranded as ‘Free Basics’ on Saturday, in the backdrop of increased censorship by the NDA government.

“Whirlwind tour”

The Wall Street Journal, too, focused on Modi’s tete-a-tete with Zuckerberg: “Before Facebook entered the stratosphere of Internet success and while he was considering whether or not to sell the social-media company, Mr Zuckerberg said that Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs recommended he visit a temple in India ‘in order to reconnect with what I believed was the mission of the company’.

The WSJ noted that Modi’s “whirlwind tour” to meet the leaders of Silicon Valley has had the effect of positioning India as an attractive alternative to China for technology companies to invest in.

It, however, did not play up Modi’s emotional moment while talking about his mother’s hardships – a story told fervently by Indian dailies.

The most amazing moment this morning was when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and I talked about our families, and he...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday, 27 September 2015

The anecdote found a prominent mention in the Washington Post: “…his most memorable moment? Crying at Facebook.”

“Family has always been a touchy subject for Modi, 65. He left his hometown while still a young man to devote his life to working for the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and didn’t return for two decades, according Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, the author of the book ‘Narendra Modi: The Man, the Times.’ The author says he has never found any evidence to support the claim that Modi’s mother was a domestic worker,” the daily wrote.

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